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The VALUE of Leadership in Relationships

by Dr. Scott Zarcinas, Founder, Unlocking Your Life seminars

Nobody is an island. No matter how isolated we feel or actually are in a physical sense, every single human being on the planet shares it with another in one form or another.

We have all been born: we have parent-sibling relationships. We require housing, food, water, as bare necessities to live, not to mention transport, health and entertainment – we have producer-consumer relationships. We have education and work/job needs – we have career relationships. We have the need to belong – we have interpersonal relationships.

We have relationships with others in every aspect of our lives, whether we like it or not. The question therefore is: if I can’t avoid relationships with others, how can I improve the relationships I have?

This is where good leadership comes in. Strong and reliable relationships require good leadership because good leadership puts a VALUE on our relationships, and any relationship that is valued is a relationship that will flourish (in contrast, a relationship that is undervalued or not valued at all will not last very long).

Good leadership doesn’t necessarily mean one person should become the captain of the ship or the headmaster of the house, but it may. Some relationships work in a hierarchy, with a strong leader at the top of the pyramid. These types of relationships are most often seen in the workplace. It may also bee seen in home place relationships too, where one of the adult partners dominates the family.  

Some relationships though don’t require a single leader giving the direction, giving the orders and making the rules. Some relationships work best with leadership input from all members. In a family this would mean parents and children sharing the leadership role to some extent. Some workplaces also implement an open-style or democratic leadership style in their teams.

Whatever leadership model your relationship requires – hierarchical or democratic – all good leadership involves 5 common attributes:

1. Vision

2. Action

3. Learning

4. Understanding

5. Experience

Infuse all these leadership qualities into your relationship, either at home or in the workplace, and you get a relationship that has VALUE:

V = Vision

Relationships that work share a clear and common vision, whether its a work- or team-related goal or a family goal. Visions can either be big (e.g starting a family) or small (where to go on holiday this year). Think of a vision as giving direction. If your partner has visions of starting a family but you wish to remain childless, then no matter how much you want the relationship to flourish it will ultimately come to a head until one or the other’s vision is accepted by the other.

The same is true for the work place. If your team doesn’t share the same vision (or if it hasn’t been communicated well by those leading the team), then the team’s direction is vague and team members end up working against one another trying to achieve different goals. It’s energy sapping and ultimately inefficient.

Good leadership communicates a clear and common vision, and getting the vision right is paramount to a good relationship.

A = Action

Taking action may sound self-evident, but it’s surprising the amount of times I witness work teams with great visions and goals that everyone agrees upon, but no drive to make that vision a reality. A vision is no good unless it’s acted upon.

Sometimes it’s as simple as not knowing how to implement the vision or plan. Sometimes team members are not confident in implementing plans; they may be great at other things – creative thinking, marketing, interpersonal skills etc – but fall short in motivation and/or taking the steps necessary to activate the plan. This is where good leadership comes to the fore, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of everyone in the team/family.

Sometimes it comes down to not knowing your role. Every relationship works through the interaction of differing roles, whether it’s a family relationship or work relationship. In a family there are bread-winners, cleaners, carers, gardeners, cooks, taxi drivers, rule makers, and so forth. Sometimes these roles are strictly masculine and feminine, and sometimes they blur.

Good leadership  in the workplace  or at home creates an environment in which members of the team/family are comfortable with their role and with the action they need to take to make the vision a reality.

L = Learning

Most relationships that flounder or ‘get stuck in a rut’ are relationships that have stopped learning. When we think we know all there is to know at work or with our partner, then the joy of anticipating new things at work or at home disappears and humdrum sets in.

Learning is where the fun is. That doesn’t mean learning cannot be hard or tiresome, but the act of learning ‘new things’ clears the cobwebs from the mind and gives us a new lease on life.

Good leadership creates an environment of learning, of being ‘a student for life’, because learning leads to joy and joy leads to a happy relationship, whether at work or at home.

U = Understanding

It’s surprising the number of relationships that exist in which one or more team/family members ‘just don’ get’ the other member(s). They don’t understand where they’re coming from. They don’t understand why they say what they say or do what they do. They just don’t understand them at all. No wonder the relationship flounders or dies altogether.

The key to understanding other members of your team or family is to care about them. Kevin Sheedy, one of the Australian Football League’s greatest ever coaches once said in an interview that the most important thing for a coach of a football team is to care about his/her players. Not skills training. Not team development. Not fitness. But caring.

Good leadership cares about the members involved within the team or family, and caring about others naturally leads to understanding more about them, which itself leads to a deeper and more robust relationship.

E = Experience

‘You can’t beat experience,’ as the saying goes. Which, in regards to leadership in relationships, is true. Experience ties Vision, Action, Learning, and Understanding together into a neat package. The more you work at communicating a vision, the more you work at taking action, the more you invest in learning, the more you care about others, the more experienced you become at the things that are necessary for good leadership: VALUE.

My challenge to you now is this: over the next 30-days implement the core VALUE concepts of leadership into a relationship you feel is flagging, either at work or at home, and then evaluate it to see if there has been any signs of improvement. Then leave a comment below and I will endeavour to answer you when I can.


Dr. Scott Zarcinas is the Founder of Unlocking Your Life seminars. He is the author of numerous books, including Your Natural State of Being.